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Top 10 Healthcare Systems Are IT Innovators

Health technology use appears to be the secret sauce that brings medical systems to the top of the pack in a Thomson Reuters study.

Thomson Reuters announced Tuesday its annual ranking of the top 10 health systems in the United States. It should come as no surprise that several of the highest achieving healthcare providers are also considered best in class as innovative users of health IT.

Thomson Reuters' 10 Top Health Systems report is based on an "annual quantitative study [that] uses objective, independent research and public data sources." It's worth mentioning that among the data evaluated by Thomson Reuters, virtually all of the stats require sophisticated IT tools to collect:

-- Risk-adjusted mortality index
-- Risk-adjusted complications index
-- Risk-adjusted patient safety index
-- Core measures mean percent
-- 30-day risk-adjusted mortality rate
-- 30-day risk-adjusted readmission rate
-- Severity-adjusted average length of stay
-- HCAHPS score (patient rating of overall hospital performance)

So, who topped the list? In alphabetical order:

-- Advocate Health System, Oak Brook, Ill.
-- Cape Code Healthcare, Hyannis, Mass.
-- CareGroup Healthcare System, Boston
-- Kettering Health Network, Dayton, Ohio
-- Maury Regional Healthcare System, Columbia, Tenn.
-- Mayo Foundation, Rochester, Minn.
-- NorthShore University HealthSystem, Evanston, Ill.
-- OhioHealth, Columbus, Ohio
-- Partners HealthCare, Boston
-- Spectrum Health, Grand Rapids, Mich.

CareGroup, which operates Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and a few other hospitals in Boston, is a competitor to Partners HealthCare, which also operates several Boston-area hospitals, including Massachusetts General and Brigham and Women's.

These prestigious Harvard-affiliated organizations have long been early adopters and innovators of e-health records, computerized physician order entry, and an array of other health information technologies that are just now becoming mainstream for many other healthcare providers racing to meet Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act meaningful use criteria.

Over the years, InformationWeek has profiled many of the tech innovations of CareGroup and Partners, as well as Mayo and a couple others on the Thomson Reuters 2011 list. For instance, organizations including CareGroup and NorthShore University have appeared over recent years on InformationWeek's own IW500 ranking of most innovative companies in their use of IT.

Meanwhile, CareGroup, Mayo, Partners, and NorthShore University all appeared on the 2010 list of "most wired hospitals" by Hospitals & Health Networks. Spectrum also made Hospital & Health Network's 2010 ranking of "most improved" wired organizations.

I'm not suggesting that organizations that made the ranks of Thomson Reuters' Top 10 Health Systems for 2011 achieved their high-quality measures because they use health IT. But surely, health IT for some of these organizations is a secret sauce helping to improve patient care.

"IT has provided the applications to enable quality measurement," said Dr. John Halamka, CIO of CareGroup in an email interview with InformationWeek. "These metrics help us track and improve performance. The technology tools are an essential part of enhancing safety, quality, and efficiency," he said.

As many more healthcare providers across the United States deploy health IT and achieve meaningful use, it's likely the bar will be raised for all health systems that want to be considered "the best."

While it's great for healthcare providers to receive accolades from Thomson Reuters or any other organization that hands out awards for care achievements, ultimately the biggest winners in those quality and safety efforts are patients. And that's the best thing of all.

Marianne Kolbasuk McGee is a senior writer for InformationWeek.

The Healthcare IT Leadership Forum is a day-long venue where senior IT leaders in healthcare come together to discuss how they're using technology to improve clinical care. It happens in New York City on July 12. Find out more.

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